Managing information overload
Surviving and Thriving in Lockdown: protecting your mental health in a crisis
In times of crisis, it seems like everyone becomes an expert on what’s going on. Social media has become a hotbed of fake news, shared indiscriminately, which can add to the fears and anxieties we’re experiencing. It can all feel a bit overwhelming and doesn't do our mental health any good. Here are 6 tips to help manage the information overload.
Choose your sources
You can protect yourself from overload by knowing which sources are credible, and turning to these when you’re looking for information. For health information, for example, the NHS, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are good sources. They are far more likely to have the real story about the latest COVID19 measures and information than that random post from Joe Bloggs who lives down the road.
Another thing that seems to happen during crisis is that the amount being shared skyrockets. News stories, fake news stories, memes, jokes, angry posts, dismissive posts, conspiracy theories...the internet goes bananas, and with that so do your devices! Notifications spring into constant action and you are bombarded with pings and bleeps and buzzing.
The consequence of being constantly reactive to this is that you’re sympathetic nervous system is on high alert, creating a stress response - the ‘fight or flight’ state. Over time this can make you feel anxious, stressed and affect your physical health. We can feel harrassed by our own phones! Again, choosing what’s important to you can help. Muting notifications from certain apps and group chats, temporarily ‘hiding’ people or taking the decision to unfriend them entirely can help to reduce overwhelm and maintain a calm.
It’s easy to be sucked into being permanently attached to your phone, and being reactive to every notification that arrives. Muting some or all of them will help reduce stress, and so does being proactive about when you respond to them. If you’re finding you’re constantly waiting for the next update, it can help you to detach by allocating a set amount of time at various points in your day when you respond to messages, texts, and social media notifications. Outwith those times, put your devices in another room and find something else to fill your time. If switching off is still difficult, check out the various apps that help you reduce your screen time, or the amount of time you spend on particular apps.
Be aware of how you feel
24/7 connection and reactivity is bad for our health. It keeps our bodies and brains in a state of high alert which can mean that we have higher levels of stress hormones in our bodies and this, over time, can create many health problems. And yet, we are becoming so used to living in a world where instant replies and immediate action is now normal, that we often don’t notice the impact that has on us.
Take a couple of minutes two or three times a day to stop, take deep breaths and focus on how you feel mentally, emotionally and physically. Are you feeling mentally tired? Emotionally drained? Is your body tense or in pain? What have you been doing today that could be the cause? Whatever you notice is an opportunity to think about how to care for yourself better. Take a nap, practice mindfulness using a guided visualisation, switch off your devices, go outside for some air, do some stretches. Tune into what you need and find a way to honour that.
Whether you’re still going out to work, are juggling working at home with home schooling, or trying to fill the long days with projects around the house, ensuring you make time to relax and switch off at the end of the day is essential. Practicing selfcare by taking time to wind down and do something you enjoy every day will help to manage stress levels and can even help to ease anxiety and improve sleep. Make relaxation a priority.
Neutralise the bad news
Sometimes it feels like all we hear is bad news and, during times of crisis this is seems to escalate. It can feel impossible to escape from the frightening, sad and worrying stories. There is such a thing as too much information, and it’s important for our mental health to find a way to neutralise that so we can maintain balance in our lives. Again, choosing your sources of information and when you access these is a good way of reducing your exposure to the negativity. Try seeking out some positive news channels and social media accounts to help balance what your seeing and reading. You’ll find some of my favourites in the resources section below.
The Good News Network: https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/
Action for Happiness: https://www.actionforhappiness.org/
Tiny Buddha: https://tinybuddha.com/
The Happiness Lab podcast: https://www.happinesslab.fm/
If you feel that you would benefit from counselling to explore issues, I am currently working online. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to enquire about availability.
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